Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Year Billable Hours

Ford & Harrison, an Atlanta-headquartered labor and employment law firm eliminated billable hour requirements for its first-year associates under an innovative program called "Year One." This program is proving to be a huge success. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog reported that Year One is being well received by the firm's clients, associates, and partners alike. Under the program, first-year associates get to work directly with clients, and those clients are generally pleased to see a second lawyer working on their cases--at no extra charge. The associates enjoy the chance to work on depositions, negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations while first-year associates at other firms often spend their time on research projects and document review. Partners like the program because, to their surprise, it is helping the new associates become proficient and productive in a short amount of time; the reduced pressure seems to yield greater productivity, earlier.

The new attorneys must still account for 1,900 hours of work, but that work can be either billable to clients or time defined as training, such as working with partners on depositions, meeting with clients, and preparing cases for trial. Let's all tip our hat to this firm for finding an innovative way to increase client, associate, and partner satisfaction, and for developing a creative and successful alternative to the billable hour. Hopefully, we'll see more and more law firms taking a similar approach to first year laywers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mormon Colonies in Mexico Documented

The term "Mexican colonies" conjures family lore for many Arizona Mormons.

Some can pull family histories from their bookshelves with rich stories of persevering ancestors who lived in thriving northern Mexican enclaves where polygamy was practiced and the large families made a living in the isolation of the mountainous desert.

These were places like Colonia Dublán Colonia Garcia or one of the "mountain colonies," like Cave Valley or Colonia Pacheco. A dozen colonies were established after 1885 in the states of Chihuahua and Sonora by families of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while the U.S. government was pressing Mormons in Utah to halt polygamy if they wanted statehood.

Some polygamists believed they were keeping Mormon plural marriage alive in that outpost so that one day it might be judged culturally and politically acceptable in the U.S.

Two Valley women, one a lifelong Mormon who lived 17 years in Colonia Dublán and gave birth to her four children there, are about to release a film documentary, "The Land of Refuge," about the Mormon pioneers who escaped persecution in the American Southwest almost 125 years ago. The film will be for sale on DVD, and they hope to market it to cable channels and PBS. (www.mormoncoloniesinmexico.com).

Pamela Jo Bowman, of Mesa, and Cyndi Greening, of Gilbert, collaborating as GREENing Productions (using Bowman's maiden name of Green and Greening's surname), found descendants, journals and histories to capture the stories of life in the colonies. Residents met upheaval in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which ended the 35-year rule of President Porfirio Diaz and sent many Mormon families back to the U.S.

"There was a mass exodus because of the revolution" in the summer of 1912 when some 4,000 Mormons crossed into Arizona and temporarily settled in places like Douglas, Greening said. "Some of the colonies emptied out completely."

Today, only Colonia Dublán and Colonia Juarez remain viable, and the late church president, Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a temple in Juarez in February 2000. Polygamy is no longer practiced there, although breakaway fundamentalists live in what is called Colonia LeBaron near Galeana. Bowman once visited with some of that sect while providing car breakdown help and transportation in the foothills of Sierra Tarahumara.

"What is clear to me is that the people who lived in the Mexican colonies were really devoted Mormons," said Greening, 51, who has been involved in filmmaking since 1983. "They really believed in their hearts and souls that they were doing what they thought was right for the church. So they married those extra women, and they had families and that is why they went to Mexico."

As a condition for Utah to be admitted as a state, the Mormon Church had to repudiate the practice of polygamy, which it did in 1890. It was made the 45th state in 1896. Ultimately, when the church formally ended polygamy, those in the Mexican Mormon colonies were "really crushed," said Greening, who is not Mormon. "A lot of people down there were shocked. They felt they were leading God's law."

Because many Mormons continued to practice polygamy, Joseph Fielding Smith, church president/prophet, issued the Second Manifesto in 1904 declaring excommunication would come to those who entered into plural marriage, triggering formation of the fundamentalist Mormon movement.

Bowman, 50, was a journalism student in 1980 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, when she met another student, Christopher Bowman. As they dated, she applied her interviewing skills to get the shy man to tell her of his past. She learned he had grown up in a Mexican colony. Months later, they went to Colonia Dublán for his family reunion. "That was my first exposure to the colonies," she said. As a joke, Christopher showed her an adobe hut and said that was where he had grown up. "He just wanted to see my reaction," she said.

The couple married in 1983 and moved to the colonies where Christopher took over family property with orchards and cropland.

"My experience with moving down there was totally different than the experience for the women who went there in 1885," Bowman said. In the beginning, some lived in cavernlike holes along a river or in their wagons. It was a rigorous life of a new culture, isolation and building communities from scratch.

When Christopher became bishop of their ward, he asked Pamela to write a pageant play, in 1996, highlighting history of the Mormon colonies. It would include the challenges of getting land, the dangers of Pancho Villa and marauders in northern Mexico and efforts of Mormons to stay politically neutral. Although she never completed the play, her efforts provided grist for the eventual "Land of Refuge" documentary. She began taking filmmaking classes from Greening at Mesa Community College, then, together, they traveled to Zambia and produced a feature, "Bad Timing," and a documentary, "Voice of an African Nation."

With that experience, they formed their own production company and launched into the Mexican project, with Greening as producer and co-writer with Bowman. As they read through hundreds of journals and personal histories, they decided to select quotes, then find descendants in Mexico and the U.S. to voice those quotes on film. They also have vintage photos and film of the colonies.

"I want to show the strength of character of these people," with emphasis on the women, Bowman said. "They had nothing and they did whatever they had to do to raise their children in the way they wanted to raise them."

"Some of the women said they loved their sister wives and became best friends," Greening said. Certainly, there were some women who had jealousies," such as a woman who was so stressed that her husband was with another wife, she would stay up all night cleaning house.

"If you talk to anyone from the colonies, 95 percent of them will tell you they are so proud and happy to have had that experience," she said. "They feel such a tie and bond with the colonies."

Besides the 70-minute documentary, they have set up a Web site where Mormons with historical ties to the colonies can post information, stories and photos at http://mormoncoloniesinmexico.wetpaint.com.

Bowman and Greening are exploring doing a documentary on two American colonial women, midwife and religious activist Anne Hutchinson and Quaker martyr Mary Dyer. Hutchinson was put on trial in 1637 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for arguing people could communicate directly with God without the help of ministers (all men) and the Bible. She was convicted and banished from the colony. At the height of anti-Quaker fervor in Boston, Dyer was imprisoned for her activism, then banished. But when she defiantly returned, Dyer was hanged in 1660. Their persecution, Greening said, helped feed Thomas Jefferson's historical writings on the principles of freedom of religion. As original told in the East Valley Tribune

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Which is the better law School, Benjamin Cardozo or J. Reuben Clark?




Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School Quick Facts:
US News and World Report Ranking- 55
Established 1976
Location: New York City, New York
Median LSAT/GPA- 162/3.53
Tuition- $39,470
Highs- Located in largest legal metropolitan in the US.
Lows- High cost of living, high tuition.





J. Reuben Clark Law School Quick Facts:
US News and World Report Ranking- 46
Established 1973
Location: Provo, Utah
Median LSAT/GPA- 165/3.70
Tuition- $8,700
Highs- Low tuition, low cost of living.
Lows- Distance to nearest major legal metro.

US News and World Report Ranking- Advantage BYU
Year Established- Advantage BYU
Median LSAT/GPA- Advantage BYU
Tuition- Advantage BYU
Geographic Location- Advantage Cardozo
Overall Advantage- BYU

Is it time that Mormons replace Jews as the stereotypical lawyer? There is a strong stereo type of Jewish lawyers that is carried out on TV, Movies, and popular media in general. How deserving is this reputation? The number of Mormon law students in school far outweighs the number of Jews in law school. How long will it be before the media begins to associate Mormons as the religion of lawyers?

Monday, September 15, 2008

BYU and University of Utah Are Not Being Considered

After our first ten top most Mormon friendly law schools posting we received a lot of feed back from people saying; "BYU and the University of Utah should be one and two on the list" and our response to that is of course BYU and the "U" are the two most Mormon friendly law schools in the country that's why we didn't rank them last year nor will we ever rank them in our list. We consider it a given that those two schools are on the list and that's why we didn't put them on it. So, everyone take a deep breath and relax, BYU and the University of Utah and great schools and both (obviously) very Mormon friendly.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2009 Top Ten Mormon Friendly Law Schools Release Date Has Been Set

On Monday April 6, 2009 the Second annual Top Ten Most Mormon Friendly Law Schools will be made public. We have already begun to compile basic data for the list. Next year's top ten list will come from these 55 law schools.
ASU
Arizona
Cal. Western
Case Western
Chicago
Creighton
Cornell
Columbia
Colorado
Dayton
Duke
Franklin Pierce
Florida State
George Mason
George Washington
Gonzaga
Georgetown
Harvard
Houston
Idaho
Illinois
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
LaVerne
Lewis and Clark
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri- Columbia
Missouri- KC
Nebraska
NYU
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Pacific McGeorge
Penn State
Pepperdine
Saint Louis
San Diego
Seton Hall
Stanford
Texas Tech
Tulsa
UCLA
UNLV
Valparaiso
Vanderbilt
Washburn
Washington and Lee
Whittier
Willamette
William and Mary
Wisonsin
Wyoming
Yale

Additionally, the criteria to measure the schools will be increased from 5 elements to 10. If you have a good argument as to why we should expand the list to a law school not on our list let us know.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gaming The US News Law School Ranking

Posted by Dan Slater of WSJ
It’s no secret that top law schools game the U.S. News & World Report rankings by admitting students with sub-par LSATs and GPAs into the part-time program only, since those students’ so-called entering credentials will then be excluded from the rankings calculus.
As early as January, that loophole might be excised. On today’s front-page, the WSJ’s Amir Efrati reports that U.S. News is “seriously” considering reworking its ranking system to crack down on the practice, according to Robert Morse, director of data research at the magazine, who manages the all-mighty rankings. LB noted this possibility in July.
“Counting part-timers would roil the law-school rankings,” writes Efrati, “which have a big impact on where students apply and from where law firms hire.” Moreover, law school administrators say the methodology change could narrow a traditional pathway to law school for minorities and working professionals, who often perform worse on the LSAT. If the ranking calculus changes to include part-timers, schools could feel pressure to raise their admission thresholds, making it harder for these groups to gain admission.
A change in criteria would “catch the outliers but punish part-time programs that have existed forever and aren’t doing it to game the system,” says Ellen Rutt, an associate dean at the University of Connecticut. If U.S. News makes the move, many schools with part-time programs would have a tough choice: Leave their admission standards for part-timers unchanged, which could hurt their rank, or raise the standards, likely shrinking the programs and cutting revenue.
Tom W. Bell, a law prof at Chapman University who has developed a rankings model that mimics the one used by U.S. News, says that if the U.S. News change had already taken place this year, some schools could have fallen from the magazine’s “first tier” of the top 50 schools to the second tier, and some from the second to the third. Bell ran several schools’ data through his model, at WSJ’s request. For example, Southern Methodist University and the University of Connecticut, tied at 46th, might have fallen out of the top 50, and Hofstra and Stetson universities might have sunk below 100.
These kinds of drops can put the jobs of law school deans in jeopardy. Nancy Rapoport, the former dean of the University of Houston Law Center, resigned in 2006 after the school had fallen from 50th to 70th in the span of a few years. (The school is now ranked 55th; Rapoport has moved on to teach at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.) In the 2009 rankings, Buffalo law school experienced the most precipitous drop in the rankings, from 77 to 100.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mexico's Legal System Adopts Constitutional Changes

This is a fascinating article about the changes in Mexico's legal system. These new changes are to lower corruption and abuse against arrested parties.
By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press Writer
MEXICO CITY - Mexico is in the midst of a legal revolution, and Cristal Gonzalez is on the front lines.
The U.S.-trained lawyer is one of a growing number of Mexican attorneys putting judges, lawyers, investigators and clerks through crash courses in justice, now that Mexico has amended its constitution to throw out its inept and corrupt legal system.
Some of her lessons may seem blindingly obvious. Yet they drive home just how dysfunctional are Mexico's courts and police.
On a recent evening, the 30-year-old lawyer explained Mexico's new rules of justice to a class of 200 professionals with the clarity of a preschool teacher: "The accused is IN-NO-CENT until proven guilty! Confessions cannot be coerced. Which means the person cannot be submitted to ...?" She paused for a response.
"Torture," several students answered in unison.
Under the constitutional amendment passed by the legislature, approved by all 32 states and signed by President Felipe Calderon, Mexico has eight years to replace its closed proceedings with public trials in which defendants are presumed innocent, legal authorities can be held more accountable and justice is equal.
Calderon says Mexico's democratic and economic development depends on this judicial reform — along with fiscal and electoral changes he has pushed through Congress.
The country has tried to overhaul its major government institutions since 2000 when voters ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — notorious for using the electoral and legal systems to maintain its hold on power.
Supporters of the change say Mexico has been missing out on millions in foreign investment because of its reputation as a lawless country where people are arrested randomly and criminals pay off judges — problems Calderon says also hamper the fight against organized crime.
Demands for reform of Mexico's police and courts have become much more vocal since Aug. 1, when a 14-year-old kidnap victim was found dead even after his businessman father paid a large ransom. The boy was abducted at a fake police checkpoint allegedly with help from detectives.
At a national meeting in Mexico City, the boy's father, Alejandro Marti, demanded that police and judges improve the judicial system. "If you can't do that, then quit," Marti said. "But don't just keep holding a government job. Don't keep receiving a salary for doing nothing."
Last weekend, more than 100,000 Mexicans took to the streets in cities nationwide to protest rampant crime and corruption.
Since the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Mexico has had an inquisitorial system adopted from Europe in which the accused is not presumed to be innocent and proceedings are largely carried out in writing and in secret.
Inquisitorial systems are still used in many countries. But Mexico's version had become so corrupt, Gonzalez said, that "if police put someone's head in excrement and the person confessed, the confession was admitted if the paperwork followed procedures as far as fingerprints, the signature of the public minister, etc."
Without the threat of exposure in public trials, mistaken arrests, bungled investigations and confessions extracted under threats and torture have become common in Mexico.
The new system aims to prevent the errors and abuses that led to the ouster of the capital's police chief and top prosecutor in July after 12 people died in a police raid on a nightclub. A government probe found police caused a stampede by trying to detain hundreds of youths, rather than arresting only those found with drugs or alcohol. Male officers also forced 10 young women to strip naked even though they were not accused of any crime.
Under the old rules, suspects are routinely paraded in front of cameras before they have been charged, sometimes holding weapons allegedly used in crimes. Lawyers often pay witnesses to write favorable testimony, Gonzalez said, and there are no cross-examinations of witnesses, emotional courtroom exchanges or clever closing arguments.
Judges often get their shoes shined while presiding over trials. Gonzalez said the judges sometimes send court secretaries to oversee the closed proceedings, where the few questions asked of defendants often don't relate to the charges, such as "Are you Catholic?"
"It's an amazing change that judges will be listening to someone's voice," Gonzalez told her class at Mexico's Federal Judicial Institute. "The judge will look into the eyes of those testifying. He will see if they stutter, if they are nervous. Does all that count? Of course!"
Judges — not juries of peers — will still determine guilt or innocence. "This is not a copy of the gringo system," Gonzalez told the class.
Instead, Mexico chose a criminal code similar to the one adopted in 2005 by Chile, where cases are examined by three judges who consider the legality of the evidence and whether the defendant's rights were respected. Then, the judges send cases to trial or recommend other means of adjudication, such as a plea bargain or probation.
The new penal code is no miracle cure, but supporters say it has more safeguards, such as limits on detention without charges, the right to a lawyer and a speedy trial.
Still, many are skeptical.
"This favors the guilty," said court clerk Maria del Carmen Rojas. "It gives them too many rights, and because of the speedy trials, judges are not going to have time. Judges are going to be under a lot of pressure."
Other officials suggested that many police, prosecutors and judges would simply ignore the changes.
Some worry a new provision allowing organized crime suspects to be held for up to 80 days without charges could lead to abuses. New York-based Human Rights Watch says that's one of the longest pre-charge detention times of any Western democracy. Terrorism suspects can legally be held for no more than two days on U.S. soil without being charged.
No one knows exactly when the first federal oral trial will take place. Cases in progress before the constitutional change will continue under the old code. Gonzalez admits it won't be easy to change mentalities within Mexico's male-dominated judicial system.
At one session of her class, she asked three state prosecutors how they would resolve a rape case. All said they would order the attacker and victim to marry — a common practice in Latin America.
To help her in training professionals, Gonzalez studied law at Southwestern University in Los Angles. She was motivated to demand reforms after armed men seized her in a taxi and drove her around Mexico City forcing her to withdraw money from ATMs. One of the gunmen, hearing she was a lawyer, said: "Good luck with your career."
She didn't call police, she said, because she thought nothing would be done and feared her family could be harmed if the assailants found out.
"I didn't have the tools to do anything, and I am part of the system," she said. "I felt like a fool."